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Call for City Deal action

Council voices needed to ‘champion business’

Andy WilloxA small businesses group has called for the new council administrations to appoint ‘business champions’ to each of Scotland’s city deals to ensure their billion pound budgets deliver for local economies.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says these individuals would bridge the gap between public and private sectors byu being the voice of local firms at key decision-making forums.

They would also encourage local businesses to get involved in the delivery of projects.  

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee, FSB warns that local firms feel they have had too few opportunities to influence city deal spending priorities.

North of the border there are three live city deals: Glasgow; Inverness; and Aberdeen, and three in the pipeline: Tay Cities; Edinburgh; Stirling and Clackmannanshire.

At least £5 billion of spending is associated with these projects – which equates to about 40% of Scotland’s annual health budget.

Andy Willox (pictured), FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “City deals look like they’re here to stay. They’re delivering much needed local infrastructure spending and fostering long-needed intergovernmental partnerships. 

“But too few local firms feel part of their local deal. Given the scale and duration of these spending packages, and that almost half of Scotland’s firms operate in an area that already has a deal in place, this absolutely needs to change. Local business champions are one way to address this problem.”

FSB highlights comments from one Glasgow member who said: “As both a resident and a business, I have had no information, no consultation and no knowledge of the city deal despite it impacting massively on an area that is but a few hundred yards away from where I live and where my business is based.”

FSB also argues that both Scottish Parliament committees and Audit Scotland should have a role in scrutinising city-deal spending and governance.

Mr Willox said: “City deals are a big deal. They deserve much more attention from our elected members and other organisations charged with scrutinising spending.” 

In its local government election manifesto, FSB argued that the deals should take action on mobile phone coverage – ensuring that Scottish cities are amongst the first to benefit from 5G, while subsidising local projects to close suburban not-spots.

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